EAGAN, Minn. – Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense have been in fine form through the first month of the season.
Minnesota ranks 12th in the NFL with 390.3 yards per game and has scored at least 27 points in three of four contests.
The Vikings quarterback has been prolific in his own right, ranking third in the NFL with 1,387 passing yards. Cousins has 10 touchdown passes on the season, which ranks tied for third, and he is one of seven signal-callers to have double-digit scores.
But it’s mostly been the passing offense that has clicked, as the Vikings rank last in the league with 63.0 rushing yards per game.
Cousins said Wednesday that while he would prefer for the Vikings offense to be balanced, the unit is focused on being successful no matter what it takes.
“We want to score points. It’s about scoring points,” Cousins said. “We want to be explosive as an offense. We want to keep defenses on their toes. However we can do that, we will do that.
“It is going to change week-to-week. It is going to change within the game, based on the situation the game is calling for,” Cousins added. “We just have to be ready to adapt to whatever comes our way.”
Cousins said there is “a combination of factors” that go into why the Vikings have struggled to run the ball consistently so far in 2018.
“I think you run the ball more typically when you have a lead. You run the ball typically when you feel good about your matchups there. You run the ball when guys are healthy,” Cousins said. “There is a lot of factors that affect it. You also run the ball when you feel like maybe the pass game isn’t your best opportunity to move the football.
“In a lot of cases, we’ve looked at our call sheets and [Vikings Offensive Coordinator John] DeFilippo looked at it and felt our best chance to win this game right now is to drop back and throw it. You can’t do it all. You do what you think is best and hope that it will turn into a win.”
So far, it’s been the aerial attack that is leading the way.
Here are four other topics Cousins addressed during his session with media:
1. Familiar territory
Cousins will be in a familiar road venue this weekend.
The Vikings quarterback will make his fifth career start at Lincoln Financial Field, the most road starts he’s ever made at an opposing stadium.
Cousins is 2-2 in his career at Philadelphia. He has completed 105 of 155 passes (67.7 percent) for 1,329 yards with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions against the Eagles on the road.
“It’s a great environment, a great place to play an NFL football game on a Sunday afternoon. Great crowd,” Cousins said. “I’ve had my fair share of battles there. Some have come out victorious, some have come out as the loser.
“It will be a great test for us,” Cousins added.
The quarterback has thrown for 300-plus yards and at least three scores in three games in the City of Brotherly Love.
Cousins is 4-3 in his career against the Eagles, with all seven starts coming when he was Washington’s quarterback in an NFC East matchup. He has thrown for 2,122 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions against Philadelphia.
2. On the same page with Flip
The Cousins-DeFilippo tandem was one of the most talked about storylines of Minnesota’s offseason.
With a new quarterback and a new offensive coordinator in place, many wondered how the two would click in a new environment for both?
Cousins said Monday that it’s been smooth sailing all around.
“I think it’s been pretty comfortable,” Cousins said. “I think the in-game mechanics, getting to the line of scrimmage, getting the right play called, reading the plays correctly … I don’t find any of us coming back on Monday with much confusion … ‘What did you want there, where did you want the football, I misunderstood…’ – there hasn’t been much of that.
“I think that’s a good sign, especially early in the season, and I would like to think that as we play further into the year that’s only going to get tighten up,” Cousins added.
DeFilippo spent the previous two seasons as the quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia.
3. No self-scouting
The Vikings had a mini bye over the weekend because of last Thursday’s game in Los Angeles.
Some players took the time to rest up and relax, while Cousins attended his sister’s wedding.
And while Cousins surely reviewed film and recapped the 38-31 loss to the Rams, he said he wasn’t overly critical of an offensive performance that saw the Vikings put up 446 yards of offense and set a season-best in points scored.
“I didn’t do any specific, intense self-scout,” Cousins said. “I think we just go back and critique our games and look at where we can be better or where we need to be better.
“For the most part it has been pretty positive in terms of moving the football, being explosive. I think you just point to that one Bills game that got away from us early because of a couple turnovers,” Cousins added. “Outside of that, I don’t think there’s a whole lot to say, ‘Oh man, we have to really change what we’re doing and completely reinvent it.’ ”
4. Praise for Smith
Cousins spent one game in each of the previous two seasons getting ready for a Vikings defense that has been among the league’s best units in recent years.
Cousins and his future team split those contests, with each side winning a game in Washington.
Cousins was asked to describe going against Harrison Smith.
“Just a good all-around player. You don’t point to anything to say there is a weakness. You don’t point to anything to say this is the one thing he does well,” Cousins said. “I think you realize he is a good blitzer, he is a good tackler. He is good in his disguises. He can play the deep middle. He can play a good quarter safety. He is good in the red zone. He can be good on third down. He can cover tight ends, running backs and slot receivers and carry them vertically.
“The longer now that he’s played, he just starts to own his craft more and more,” Cousins added. “Much like a quarterback who has been in the same system for many years, as [Vikings quarterbacks coach Kevin] Stefanski has said, ‘You start to know where the bones are buried.’ You start to know the way teams are going to try to beat you. You’ve seen it before and not going to get fooled as easily as you might be as a young player.”
Smith has been two straight Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro selection in 2017 when he tied a career high with five interceptions.